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Fertility benefits for employees are gaining greater traction. Considering fertility matters at work, as something for employers to be actively involved in via benefits, was first thought of by American tech giants as a way to attract and retain staff.  Fertility benefits are now increasingly being demanded and offered here in the UK. Clifford Chance, NatWest, Centrica and Cooley all launched employer fertility benefits in 2021, with schemes covering up to £45,000 of treatment or provision.  So, why is fertility in the workplace now being considered? Why do employers need to consider offering fertility benefits? 

The business case for supporting fertility in the workplace

Mental health matters

90% of people experiencing fertility problems experience depression symptoms. 42% report suicidal thoughts. In a climate where we are beginning to understand that helping to support an employee’s mental health brings positive and tangible benefits to the employer, this is a compelling argument.  Becoming a parent is a huge milestone and can become all-consuming. It’s inordinately stressful when it doesn’t happen without medical intervention – and this is before factoring in the financial burden that many face when considering fertility treatment.

Fertility issues are unfortunately common

Infertility affects 1 in 7 heterosexual couples in the UK. So the chances are that you employ people struggling with infertility. It will affect their work through stress and other mental health impacts. It is forward-thinking for employers to therefore consider how to manage infertility and support their employees. Additionally, statistics reveal that infertility is a growing problem. In 25 years, infertility problems have grown by 20%.

NHS funding is patchy and takes time

Employers often end up bearing the brunt of the NHS’s failings when it comes to fertility treatment, or other ‘elective’ treatment. Fertility treatment in the UK is widely considered to be a postcode lottery and, even when treatment is funded, it is usually very limited and takes time to access.  This problem is even more notable when we reveal that delays to NHS IVF treatment due to the pandemic are predicted to reduce the number of live births in women over 40 by nearly 25%. Employers can skip the queue by supporting private fertility treatment for their employees and reduce the workplace impact of infertility and mental health. 

Attracting and retaining talent

Employers are finding it harder to attract and hold on to talent due to painful skills shortages and it being a candidate-favourable market. It is therefore vital that organisations think strategically about how to attract and retain talent. Offering fertility benefits for employees is one way to do this. Indeed, more and more candidates are demanding fertility benefits. Employers should tailor benefits to their staff, according to what is wanted. Candidates are increasingly looking for a range of fertility benefits, from IVF and funded surrogacy through to fertility education, counselling and workplace support.

Employer fertility benefits are important for inclusivity

Infertility is not just about a small subset of females. It affects all genders and sexes, and LGBT+ couples and individuals in addition to heterosexuals. Fertility benefits are inclusive benefits. The vast majority of companies now recognise that having a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential to growth, productivity and success. It’s arguable that considering fertility matters at work, as well as fertility benefits, through strategies such as counselling, nutritional support, ovulation monitoring education and more, can actually improve inclusivity and support diverse workplaces.  

It’s important for employees, so should be important to employers

The costs and emotional rollercoaster of fertility treatments take their toll both emotionally and financially on employees. Employers can use their size and positioning to access fertility benefits, guidance and help that support their employees through their fertility journey. This increases engagement in the employee, making them more loyal and more committed. Morale improves and the individual is productive, innovative and profitable. 

Stay competitive against other employers

Your employer branding is essential to your success in attracting and retaining talent. Given the ease with which candidates can currently change roles, and even professions, it’s vital that your organisation offers the most innovative and up-to-date perks.  Statistics on it aren’t easy to gather, but it is likely that those experiencing infertility, faced with the costs and emotional difficulty of pursuing support through the NHS, will vote with their feet to find employers that offer the type of support they need. Given that infertility directly and indirectly affects so many, ignoring fertility benefits isn’t a risk employers can take. 

Fertility benefits don’t come without challenges

As with any relatively new concept, fertility benefits in the workplace don’t come without challenges.  Commonly, those experiencing fertility difficulties or concerns may feel reticent about sharing these with their employer. Rightly or wrongly, many still feel stigmatised for taking time out of the workplace, or returning to it, due to pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. While this is often short-sighted of employers, its prevalence means that it is a reality for many. Employers wishing to introduce fertility benefits need to do so ensuring that their culture, procedures and systems make it possible for the benefits to be fairly accessed. Additionally, employers may fear offering fertility benefits in case they encourage more time away from work. In reality, companies that do offer fertility benefits generally find the opposite to be the case.  Furthermore, there have been some concerns that offering schemes like egg-freezing places the employer in the position of encouraging individuals to delay parenthood. It can be interpreted that those earlier in their career may be penalised for having children, rather than delaying their family. Employers must make sure that their employees always have full control and choice about their fertility journey.  Lastly, there are a lot of misconceptions about what fertility benefits in the workplace entail. It’s not just about IVF but can include broader elements such as nutrition, counselling, egg freezing, ovulation apps and predictor kits, and more. 

Fertility benefits for employees

Learn more about the legal rights of employees around fertility treatments. Fertility benefits support every employee, no matter their sex, gender or sexual orientation. Employers should be aware that these benefits are growing in prevalence and should be a top priority. To find out more about how to create a supportive and inclusive workplace, book our workshop on how to support colleagues through infertility and miscarriage. It’s perfect for companies who want to inform their employees on how to be better allies to their colleagues going through fertility challenges. Or check out our workshop from Aria Fertility Clinic, which provides employees with expert guidance on all the challenges associated with trying to conceive. 
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